Are bloggers reporters?

The New York Times covers the Apple vs Bloggers suit again today. Clearly not all bloggers have journalistic aspirations or intentions, nor do they work with the discipline of professional journalists.
However, there are blogs which have a much more investigative-style akin to mainstream media and which emulate those disciplines. At what point do they cross the threshold and gain the privileges and protections of mainstream journalists? Is it the number of readers the blog attracts? If so, many blogs are more journalistic than niche publications. Is it a function of accreditation? Securing a certification which demonstrates intent to practice investigative blogging and a subscription to a code of ethics? Is that even practicable?

The risk here is obviously that a universal rule will either apply to all bloggers who become de facto journalists whether they want to or not, which devalues the profession and its rights. Or that those rights are withdrawn from all journalists as a blanket ruling. Neither is satisfactory. I suspect the accreditation route might be a way forward if a practical solution can be found. There’s a similar approach being taken with podcasting and the licensing issues which that involves if podcasters chose to broadcast music, but again that is still nascent and ability to enforce those licensing rights is difficult when dealing with individuals.

"Some bloggers want any protection available to journalists at traditional media companies to also be available to them, and journalists at those companies want to make sure that the reporter shield privilege is preserved.
Yet if recognizing a privilege for bloggers means that everyone online can maintain that they are journalists, judges may conclude that rather than giving everyone the privilege, no one should have it. That possibility worries reporters, who could find themselves at new risk for what they write or broadcast."

  • If a journalist blogs, then that blogger is a journalist.
    http://technoflak.blogspot.com/2005/03/blog-is-electronic-paper-on-network.html
    As for the priviledges of journalists, it would be far better for our country if there were no shield laws-
    http://technoflak.blogspot.com/2005/03/hr-581-anonymice-protection-act.html

  • Hi Alice,
    I agree that if a mainstream journalist also blogs, then that blogger is a still a journalist, and therefore maintains rights over confidentiality of source. Many journalists use personal blogs to expand on issues they discuss in their ‘day job’. They are governed by the editorial guidelines of their publication on those blogs as well e.g. Hiawatha Bray and Boston Globe.
    The issue seems more when a blogger is reporting, at what point to they cross that boundary from the personal recounting of events into journalism. If it’s the instant they report on an event, does that not undermine the training and experience those who practise it professionally (and are paid to do so) have earned? I’m not sure. Certainly volunteer policemen don’t have the same rights as their professionally-trained counterparts. They each have a role, and each contribute but the rights of the volunteer are more limited. Perhaps there will be a similar distinction here?

  • I don’t think there should be a legal distinction. But then I abhor shield laws.